Aug 12, 2013

[Movies] The Guilt Trip (2012)

So my partner, Tobie, kinda finds Seth Rogen cute. And thus every now and then I'm surprised to find that we have yet another Seth Rogen movie in our collection and thus we're bound to find the time to watch it. This time around, he tried to lure me in with the fact that Barbra Streisand was also in this movie.

I'm not against Seth Rogen - he's decently funny although a lot of his movies are written with a certain doofus character in mind for him. Nor am I a total Barbra fan - I respect her work and admire her singing ability but her movie career has been a little hit or miss, especially in recent years. But hey, a movie is a movie is a movie and I do enjoy watching movies.

This movie was clearly based around a single, simple premise - this being what would it be like to be stuck on a cross-country road trip with your Jewish mother. Thus Seth Rogen is the son and Barbra Streisand is his Jewish mother. And while the core concept is simple enough for a comedy movie, I think execution still could have been a lot better.

Synopsis: The Guilt Trip is 2012 comedy movie directed by Anne Fletcher, who also worked on movies like 27 Dresses and The Proposal. The screenplay was written by Dan Fogelman.

We meet Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen), who is a chemist and an inventor of a new organic cleaning product that he calls "ScioClean" (as in Science Clean). He's struggling to shop his product around with major retailers but he isn't even able to complete his pitch to the various potential investors. Disheartened, he decides to visit his mother Joyce (Barbra Streisand) in New Jersey before his next pitch Las Vegas.

While there, she reveals a little secret about with whom she had fallen in love with around the time she was engaged to his father. Her relationship with Andrew (thus Andy's name) never materialized and she pushed through with her wedding. Andy takes it upon himself to try to find Andrew and discovers that he's still alive in San Francisco. Thus he comes with the quirky idea of inviting her to join him on his cross-country drive and eventually bringing her to San Francisco to find Andrew.

Both are pretty good actors and the two do share a certain on-screen chemistry that is at times endearing. And while I'm not 100% sold on them being a mother and son team, it's a close enough representation I suppose. But where things begin to fail is how each character isn't necessarily strong independent of the other. As odd as it sounds, Seth Rogan's performance felt a little understated for what he was trying to accomplish - which is mean saying that he could have pushed the comedy a bit more. On the other hand. Meryl was campy to the point of being a rather ridiculous caricature - she was the personification of a lot of classic Jewish mother jokes. And thus the two performances felt like they were coming from different directions.

The plot in itself was weak and really didn't stand much of a chance of doing well in the movie. Just think about it - why would anyone thing that it would be a good idea to drag your mother across the country to a meet-up with a past fling without her knowing it? How can this possibly turn out well? Not many kids try to fix up their mothers with potential new husbands on the fly, especially when you're troubled with your own limited career aspirations given no one wants your miracle product.

Enhanced by ZemantaBeyond the plot, the rest of the movie is just filled with cheap, low brow jokes and Jewish stereotypes, most especially brought to the fore by Streisand herself. Things really reached a new weird place during the steak-eating competition in Texas that his mother decides to join. I mean come on, did we really need to go through that scene only to introduce a character who likes seeing a woman who can eat?

On a side note, I wonder if all the big box store brands that were used in the movie had to pay to be part of this feature. And would anyone really want to pay to be presented as cold and unfeeling companies who won't give an independent inventor the time of day? But given how prominent the brands were, it seems weird to imagine them having little to no involvement in things. And from a marketing perspective, I suppose HSN gets to go home the winner.

The Guilt Trip could have been a lot better, but it wasn't. It was just a tired narrative with bad jokes and annoying stereotypes in place of a plot. So I can only give the movie 1.5 really bad sales pitches for ScioClean out of a possible 5.

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